Books · hygge · make do and mend · Making things · out and about · Random Thoughts · the gardens · The Great Outdoors · Uncategorized

Hello again

Well it has been much longer than I had anticipated to get back to the keyboard and write a blog.

Winter around here does tend to get a bit dismal. After all of the colour and excitement of Christmas and blogmas I went into hibernation mode. You can imagine how pouty I get when we have to take down all of the Christmas lights and my garden is so dark at night.

We have had some lovely weather in amongst many cloudy days. This sunset last week was spectacular. Of course way better in real life that this picture can ever convey. The pinks were vibrant and shimmery.

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Today, February 22nd has been incredibly warm. Late in the afternoon it was 15 Celsius. I had the windows open in my office!

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You can see there is hardly any snow out there, and actual blue sky. I go nuts on a nice day.

I get all sorts of energy.

I even get around to blogging for the first time in 2 months!

I haven’t been entirely idle over the winter. I finished a knitting project that is making me very happy.

imageThis is the Light and Up Shawl designed my Caroline Wiens. The pattern is available on Ravelry for free. It is an easy pattern and was a good choice for the beautiful yarn I purchased at the Kitchener Waterloo Knitters fair last fall.

It is called Gobstopper yarn and is a 50% Merino and silk mix. Lovely to work with, deep colour penretration and a beautiful luster. I highly recommend it. You can find it here

https://gobstopperyarn.wordpress.com/

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I added an additional repeat of the lace rows to allow the full gradient of the yarn to show. Blue and brown are one of my favourite colour combinations. It turned out lovely, and is so soft to wear.  The colour name is “sinkhole” which made me laugh because I am terrified of sinkholes. But I believe this is the nicest one I have ever seen.

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I was knitting by the fire in January when the weather was much less friendly than today. I’ve been embracing the Hygge and all round cozy-ness. I loved these books.

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“The Little Book of Hygge” by Miek Wiking which is widely available. And “The Year of Cozy” by Adrianna Adarme.

I have read both cover to cover and keep them beside my chair so I can dip in and enjoy again. Lots of inspiration and ideas to make life more enjoyable.

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Nothing better on a winters day.

The weather today is making me think of spring. I have been out poking my fingers in the soil, standing and squinting at areas of the garden that are up for transformation this year, and yes I have already ordered some seeds.

The open window had my nose twitching at the prospect of garden time soon.

Blogmas 2016 · Christmas · Random Thoughts · The Great Outdoors

Blogmas day 22 the solstice

 

fir tree

Hello my little pine trees

Now if I had been thinking ahead about this I would have posted this topic yesterday. But it really didn’t occur to me until I saw a bunch of posts on Facebook that it would make a good topic.

Personally I like to mark the solstices as a special day. My reasoning is that both the longest and the shortest day of the year are something that is real and tangible, and the same all over the world (yes given that they occur on opposite days based on if you are in the Northern or Southern hemisphere). So on this day it was either the longest or shortest day no matter where you are, or what religion you are, or what language you speak. We all experience the completion of the season cycle and the return towards the other extreme. So why not celebrate that? Something all humans, indeed all life forms on earth experience?

I’m not suggesting we ditch all other holidays or celebrations. But if you think about it even though Valentines Day has roots deep in Christianity (St Valentine)  it is really something encouraged by greeting card makers and then florists and chocolate makers got onto a good thing and now it is a multi million dollar day. Except for the very devout, no one is really celebrating St Valentine.

The same can be said of Mother day and Father day which are not even the same calendar day in all countries. Halloween which has become a huge marketing scheme is actually the Celtic/Pagen holiday of  Samhain. Thanksgiving is celebrated in October in Canada and late November in the USA.

Again these are all fine holidays and I’m not suggesting we stop celebrating any of them if we choose. But none of them are experienced by everyone in the world the way the solstices are. They are fact and science and humans have recognized the significance of this change to the worlds axis at least since the building of Stonehenge. So why have we lost touch with the significance of these 2 days?

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If you are expecting an answer here you won’t find one because I don’t know. But I will continue to take some time to be quiet and thankful on these days that the earth still turns towards and away from the sun. I will be grateful for the changing of the seasons and respectful of Mother Earth.

And tomorrow the days will start to grow longer and we approach a weekend of family and food and fun and I’ll raise a toast to that.

Blogmas 2016 · Christmas · Random Thoughts

Blogmas Day 21 Christmas Stockings

christmas home decoration

Hello my little cranberries

It is only 4 more sleeps until Christmas! Who is getting excited?

One of the things I still have to do is wrap the stocking presents. Over the years I have been surprised at how different families do the stocking thing. Of course as a kid you think that everyone has the same traditions.

In our house we didn’t hang our stocking by the chimney with care  they just turned up Christmas morning on the end of the bed filled with goodies. I used the be amazed at all the stuff in there. I still have my childhood stocking and I am amazed at how small it is. Maybe it was magic, but I always thought it was a mountain of goodies. And in the toe was a mandarin orange.

We opened the stockings in bed and one of the gifts was always a chocolate letter. This is a Dutch tradition that we adopted in our family likely because there are a lot of Dutch families in the area and well it is a good policy to adopt all traditions that include chocolate.

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Somewhere along the line a magazine was included in there as well. This gave you something to read as you munched your chocolate letter waiting until it was late enough to hit the living room for the tree presents.

I still like getting a magazine and I look forward to taking a break sometime during the day and having a few quiet minutes flipping pages.

The rest of our presents were usually little things, socks, notebooks, toiletries and more chocolate. they were always wrapped which is what I should be doing right now.

I followed those same traditions with my own kids. Now that they are grown we tend to open the stockings around the breakfast table while having a juice or tea before moving on to the bigger tree presents. I love it when I see the whole family with their noses in the magazines and reaching for another chocolate.

Some families pass on the stockings and have moved on to Santa sacs that does allow for some bulkier gifts. I have to admit I get carried away and sometimes have to have an overflow bag for the things that won’t fit in. Or rather Santa gets carried away….

Blogmas 2016 · Christmas · Random Thoughts · Uncategorized

Blogmas day 19 – Christmas TV

Hello my little Gingerbread.

Do you have specific Christmas TV memories from when you were young? Of course that is going to differ depending on your age, though most people would mention watching A Charlie Brown Christmas or The Grinch.

But since I am a bit weird (and was a weird kid) mine was the Andy Williams Christmas Special. Not only did they often featured the Osmond brothers, they were a visual fantasy of the perfect Christmas. The elaborate sets, people lounging about enjoying an eggnog who suddenly broke into orchestrated Christmas songs – what’s not to love?

To a girl from small town Canada in the 70’s they seemed sophisticated. This was what my adult Christmas would look like – Including the Osmonds of course.  Oddly that didn’t happen.

TV was very different then, thirteen Channels, a printed TV guide or the listings in the paper, no DVR or even VCR to tape shows. Shows with the word special in the title actually were special and if you missed them at the time they were scheduled, you couldn’t go google it and watch it later. So Sunday nights were Walt Disney night, the only cartoons were on for a half an hour at lunch and were the best part of a sick day, and the time and date of the Christmas shows was a hot topic on the school yard.

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Christmas TV is different than watching Christmas movies on TV.  Most sitcoms or TV dramas have done the Christmas themed episode over the years, some more memorable than others. There are a number of ranking lists about this subject. I remember a few that stick out. But for the life of me I can’t remember anything memorable enough to write about at the moment. It seemed to be the one time when the people on the shows were doing the same things we were at the same time.

 

As I write this I am watching Victorian Farm Christmas. It is a 3 part special filmed the the Acton Scott Estate. The history geek in me loves to see how the season was prepared and celebrated in Victorian times. I expect it is also why I enjoy reading Washington Irving’s Christmas stories.

I also love all the Christmas food and cooking specials. Nigel Slater and Jamie Oliver making roasts and sprouts. Kirstie Allsopp has made a crafty show for several years celebrating her love of all things craft and Christmas. Kirstie’s Crafty Christmas has tree decorating, present wrapping, and baking competions and an epic hand knit jumper/sweater runway show. Christmas and crafts!

It is odd how in just a few days now all of this will end and we will go back to regular TV. After we watch the Queens Christmas message of course.

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The common theme above is that they are all British shows. I find the Brits just do Christmas better than anyone else. The seem to enjoy it, and revel in it. They raise Christmas to a whole other level.

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Most of my Christmas entertainment this year is not on TV at all. In fact it is the inspiration for my whole Blogmas idea and that is Vlogs on You tube. Zoella and many other You Tube Vlogers are posting every day with festive ideas or just a daily vlog of their activities and Christmas preparations. I watch them shop for a party or go and select their tree. I’m not sure what it says about wht I consider entertainment, but it is a much more real version of Christmas than the completely fake world of Andy William’s chalet in a TV studio.

Blogmas 2016 · Christmas · Cooking Things · Random Thoughts · Uncategorized

Blogmas day 17 – Christmas food

Hello my little satsumas

I was pondering what to write about today. I thought I should stay current with how my own preparations for Christmas are going. Today I did a huge grocery shop. It was so big partly because we have been stormed in for a couple of days and there is more snow forecast for tonight,  and partly because Christmas is one week away. It got me thinking about how much food is a part of all Christmas celebrations. So I went to my trusty friend Google and typed in Christmas foods. Turns out there is a nifty list on Wikipedia  of 42 countries and the national dishes served at Christmas. No surprise that I recognized and agreed with those served in Canada. There maybe a few things missing but it is pretty accurate. Same with the list for the United Kingdom, since my heritage is British it is again no surprise that many of the dishes feature in my own holiday meals. I smiled that Australia’s list mentions cold turkey and ham, as well as seafood dishes.

I think we all look forward to the feasts at this time of year. And also to the quiet times when we stop and reflect on how grateful we are for all we have. My family’s traditional meal usually features the turkey with all the trimmings, stuffing, potatoes, gravy, and vegetables. There will also be meat pies. I am not sure when that started but usually my parents would make them prior to the big day and freeze them. My Mom was on pastry duty and my Dad made the filling. They were individual sized and served re-heated with lashings of hot gravy. Since I believe any food can be improved by the addition of pastry, these have long been a highlight of my Christmas. I’ll be making them tomorrow and sharing the process with you.

Another tradition I remember from childhood was the addition of a satsuma or mandarin orange in the toe of my stocking. I was also very fond of the bowl of nuts in the shell. These item were a treat only seen at one time of the year. But now we are so spoiled with foods available all year long (I saw fresh asparagus at the store today) that not many feel special the way they did for me as a child.

Some of the best Christmas meals for me are the leftovers. Re-warming a plate of turkey dinner on Christmas day or Boxing day is almost better than the first eating. Freezing the remains of the turkey to thaw mid winter to enjoy the festive flavours all over again is worth all of the work in late December.

mmmm can’t wait.

 

Photos today from http://www.pexels.com

 

 

Blogmas 2016 · Christmas · Random Thoughts · Uncategorized

Blogmas day 15 Christmas Q & A

imageHello my little tinsel tree toppers

Today I am going to do 10 Christmas Questions

1 What is your favourite Christmas food?  

A – It is very hard to choose, because I love the whole turkey dinner but I really love the potato casserole made with hash browns and soup and sour cream.  Not very fancy but I only get it once a year and look forward to it.

2  What s your favoutite Christmas song?

A – If I’m being serious I would say “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”. Jethro Tull does an amazing version. If I think of pop music I would say Slade’s “Merry Christmas Everybody” – puts me in a good mood. I don’t like the silly songs at all except once a year I love to hear  “I want a hippopotomus for Christmas” – then I have it stuck in my head all day. Now you do too – you’re welcome.

3  White lights or coloured lights?

A –  I have already mentioned this one…white lights inside, multi-coloured outside.

4 Do you send Christmas cards?

A – No but I love the idea of them. I loved seeing all the cards arriving in December when I was a kid. Often I got to open them and that was a treat. Then we hung them up on the wall. It is a tradition I would love to do again….but it is also very expensive (postage!) and time consuming.

5. When do you open presents? 

A – I did not realize this was so varried until I was an adult and found out every culture or family seems to have very firm ideas and traditions about presents. When I was little we had family Christmas with my older brothers and sisters on Christmas Eve so I got lots of presents then. On Christmas morning we always had stockings on our beds as soon as we woke up and then I would get presents from Santa and Mom and Dad (I was the youngest and last at home)  in the morning …we didn’t really do breakfast everyone ate chocolate or leftovers from the night before.

6 Eggnog yes or no?

A – NO

7  Tree real or fake?

A – Fake but only because you can put it up sooner. And I have several. And when we finish the TV room in the basement I will have one down there too. I love the idea of a real tree and have considered getting a potted Norfolk pine….or a little cedar.

8  Favourite Christmas cookie / sweet

A – Shortbread all the way. But there are lots of treats that only get made about now that are great. Love going to a potluck and tasting all the different ones.

9 Fruitcake yes or no?

A – I really, really WANT to like fruit cake but have never found one that really tickled my tinsel. I did make an amazing ginger cake last year that I will be doing again. But no fruit in it.

10  Do you dream of a white Christmas?

A – Yes always want snow on Christmas. This year we may have more than we need. But I also want everyone to travel safely so only overnight and nice fluffy soft white stuff.

 

And that is the end of my Q & A  Feel free to ask your friends and family and see what answers you get. Or comment below with any of your favourites.

Blogmas 2016 · Christmas · Random Thoughts · Uncategorized

Blogmas day 14 It’s my Birthday!

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Hello my little candy sprinkles.

Since today is my birthday I thought I would use some of my favourite pictures. No they won’t feature me. In fact the one and only picture of me that I have EVER liked was taken by my mom on about my 17th birthday….and that was a damn long time ago. Aside from that – not so photogenic.

mag5My beloved Magnolia tree. And spring. It is a funny thing having a birthday in December. Of all the months this is the one that is most tied up as a whole month dedicated to a single event. I expect I would feel differently about that if I was brought up in a non Christian country where Christmas is not such a big deal. Or maybe it would feel different if I lived in Australia. But for me my birthday is a dark day – I mean that literally as we are just a few days from the shortest day of the year. Is is weird to say my birthDAY feels shorter and smaller because of that?

As a kid the weather was always cold, no picnics or outside games, as an adult I have had to cancel some birthday treats because the weather prevented travel. OK I sound like I am whining about that but a December birthday never feels like a real birthday.

cherry 2If I have one real beef about the day it is that I so often receive birthday presents wrapped in Christmas paper. If you know a young person with a December birthday please make the effort to wrap in non Christmas paper.  It is a small thing that makes a huge difference. I used to say I did not like receiving Christmas themed gifts, but I am more OK with that now as I am more practical as I get older. And I do like Christmas stuff. Oh what a rant this has become.

beach2But really after a certain age birthdays are just a reminder that you are getting older…

I truly am grateful to be celebrating another birthday, because the alternative…

And for the most part I don’t mind getting older for one thing I really don’t give a crap what people think of me. For instance I never would have been so public as this blog is when I was in my 20s, I was far too self conscious. I worried about everything I did, or wrote, or wore. It probably kept me from doing some fun things. So now I say what I want, and do what I want, and wear what I want. And that is something to celebrate.

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